Marja Johansson of Kemiallset Ystävät creates a record of abstracted and hard-wired beauty, bringing together a dense palate of sounds around motifs that circle inwards and then outwards, samples that get cut and fucked up, and a lot of electronic configuration. If "Animal Negatives" is anything to go by, with its tumultuous percussion and foggy effects, then Terror & Healing is the sound of rain tumbling down a pixelated mountainside.
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Ritualistic and erratic, Terror & Healing is the sort of album that your clean-cut friend would worriedly overhear you blaring, branding you a nutter in the process. Such is the dilemma of living in a shared house. But Marja Johansson doesn’t care, she’s still releasing crazy records, blissfully ignorant of external pressures of accessibility and other nonsense.
The Tsembla project is largely composed of highly processed samples and synth, all scattered into a shambolic menagerie of voices that could almost be animals - raining digital cats and dogs onto your ears. In this way, Johansson’s skill with sound manipulation places Terror & Healing of earthly origin but quite culturally neutral. Despite their chopped, abstracted nature, the collages presented here still have a familiar rhythmic and melodic root, with the possibility of any texture that her keen ears can get their lobes on existing over the top. As such, it is hard to find frames of reference for this record - imagine Gold Panda making out with Secret Chiefs 3 while tumbling down a mountain.
It’s just such a rich album. You can hear deconstructed soul on ‘Love Potion’, and whirlwind folktronica (as much as I hate that label) on ‘Purple Arrows’. Unpredictability is at the heart of all this, with each track continually surprising with a unique soundscape, propelled by electroacoustic command. I love the fact that there are no ‘parts’ to this, no discernible concrete layer that plods along an expected path. Each sound flexes and stretches beyond recognition, fully making use of the compositional power of the computer. There’re probably a few tape machines in there too. There always is.
Whatever the means of production, the end result is something that’ll challenge even the mightiest of current bastions of contemporary electronica. Shine on you crazy diamond.
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